Warnicles and Folleticus
A Quasi-Platonic Dialogue
- Folleticus-The Coach
- Warnicles-The Professor
- Polus-The Salesman
- Publius-The Student
Scene: Folleticus is in town for a forensics tournament. Publius, an ex-pupil, has invited Folleticus and Warnicles (Publius’ current professor) to his home for dinner and fellowship.
Folleticus: I had heard of the penchant you citizens of Ithaka have for coffee, and I must say that this is a splendid brew. Is it gourmet?
Publius: Oh heavens no. It is freshly ground, but my wife picks it up in the market just down the road. It is a Mediterranean blend: Italian roast, Greek, and Egyptian.
Warnicles: Well it certainly hits the spot! What a delightful way to conclude that wonderful meal. Thank you so much.
Folleticus: Yes, thank you for inviting me.
Publius: Believe me, it is our pleasure. But—the evening is far from over! Folleticus, won’t you please tell us how the tournament is going. What is the topic and what are the arguments that have prevailed thus far?
Folleticus: Well, we can definitely discuss the resolution, but, as far as “prevailing arguments” go, I’d have to say that, excepting my teams, I have yet to hear anybody advance a bona fide argument!
Warnicles: Oh, so your teams are doing well?
Folleticus: Horribly, in fact. But, as Publius will recall, we’ve learned to live with it.
Publius: That’s too bad. I would have thought that, by now, after all the talk of “recapturing the essence of the game” judges would be rewarding teams like ours once again. Are they still going for the motor-mouth style?
Folleticus: Not all, but still the majority of judges seem swayed by that approach. Well-anyway, the resolution is: “Resolved: that our society needs core values to accommodate social harmony.”
Publius: How shall we tackle this enquiry?
Warnicles: We certainly need to identify the key terms, then, if you don’t mind, Publius, I would thoroughly enjoy questioning Folleticus, at least to get us underway. I haven’t done this for so long, and, as soon as Folleticus coined the resolution I envisioned a line of enquiry that entails precisely the scope of this topic. What’s more, I have been captivated by these particular issues forever it seems.
Publius: Speaking of “envisioning” things—this is exactly how I had hoped we would begin. Are you game Folleticus?
Folleticus: Not only game; I am both honored to be included and excited about the truths we will soon uncover. “Social harmony “is clearly the end sought and, clearly, ends must always be defined. The means to the end is that perpetually elusive concept—”core values.” The other critical term, it seems to me is “accommodate.” How is it that core values “accommodate social harmony?” What sort of process could that be? The rest of the terms are clear enough, and, on the way to defining these three terms, “Core values”, “accommodate,” and “social harmony,” We will certainly have set clear parameters for our discussion and mapped our course to the destination—Home.
Publius: I can hardly think of a more important discussion! To hold correct opinions on these matters is (especially given the times in which we live) vital to free men and women everywhere. Why, just this morning, I was talking with Campbelicus about the loss of center our culture has experienced and how people need to be at home in the realm of ideas . . . .
Folleticus: Er, uh, Publius. Settle down. Rule number one for dialectical enquiry: Stay on track. Without intellectual discipline we will be about this task all night long. I have to get back to check on my troops sometime before dawn!
Publius: (major blush) Sorry coach.
Warnicles: Heh-heh. Already I have learned something, and we’ve only begun to define our terms!
Folleticus, I accept your rationale, with one caveat: The clause “our society needs” is not at all self-evident. In what manner do we “need” core values? To what degree do we need them? Is this a vital need or does it more closely resemble a “want”? In other words, does social harmony necessarily require core values, or are core values a convenient means to that end? It seems to me we ought to at least consider that distinction.
Folleticus: You are absolutely right, Warnicles. Shall we press on? Why don’t we attend to “social harmony” first, (by virtue of its being an end) then to “core values”? We shall, no doubt, treat the dependent terms in the process.
Warnicles: Folleticus, if you don’t mind . . . It seems to me that the resolution contains a presupposition about the nature of ìour societyî that warrants our attention right in the beginning. Does it seem more likely to you that this topic would involve an enquiry into the ignoble society or the noble?
Folleticus: I would hope that the framers of the resolution implied the noble society, but, for the life of me, I cannot tell anymore.
Warnicles: How true! Well, regardless of their intentions, why don’t we agree to confine ourselves, as much as possible, to the contemplation of the noble. If for no other reason than to keep the discussion from lapsing into cynicism.
Folleticus: Yes, certainly. I detest such twaddle!
Warnicles: The question arises then, regarding the nature of a noble society. I suppose that would be some sort of a basic distinction like “civil verses barbaric.” Surely you agree that civility is better than barbarism?
Warnicles: What makes a person civilized?
Folleticus: Refinement. By refinement I mean the ability to compare and to analyze, to discriminate by means of a cultivated intellect. Refinement of taste and the ability to choose well are the distinctions of the civilized individual.
Warnicles: I agree with you that refinement is the distinguishing mark of a civilized person, but the question was one of process. What is the process that renders one civilized? Or, to borrow your word, How does one actually become refined?
Folleticus: Quite right. I believe that the process by which one refines their tastes and cultivates their intellect has traditionally been called the contemplative life.
Warnicles: So, then, Folleticus, on your account the contemplative life leads to civility in the individual?
Folleticus: It would seem so, yes.
Warnicles: And that, excepting our conclusion,—which is specifically germane to the individual—this distinction applies equally as well to societies and to individuals?
Folleticus: I seem to recall a move of that nature being asserted once or twice in history, yes.
Warnicles: Therefore, we may conclude, that a civilized nation is good and, in order to become civilized, a nation ought to be inhabited with people who are good contemplators. But, more than that, the object of their contemplation is important. Possessing a faculty is one thing. Using that faculty wisely is another matter, is it not?
Folleticus: That would follow, yes. Warnicles: So then, the object of contemplation ought to be, at least in a civil society, something very much like what we call “justice.” Otherwise, the society could not be rightly called “noble.”
Warnicles: It seems to me that we are very nearly approximating the enquiry of Socrates and his fellows in the Republic. I propose, therefore, as Plato had Socrates do under similar circumstances, to maintain the analogic relationship between justice in the state and justice in the individual, proceeding from the greater to the lesser and comparing them.
Folleticus: A splendid proposal.
Warnicles: To return to where we were, then, Folleticus, I believe we were about to conclude that the primary difference between the civilized state and the barbaric state is the existence of the rule of justice in the civilized, and that a state ordered along the lines of justice would necessarily manifest “social harmony.” Have I stated our premises correctly?
Folleticus: You have and most adequately, Warnicles.
Warnicles: According to our casuistry, then, our civilized state must needs establish a rule of justice. Plato has done such a fine job with this question that I think we would do him a disservice to attempt now merely to replicate the Republic. One question that arises, however, is : What is the most desirable means of establishing the rule of justice? There is, as always, more than one way to achieve the end. Would you agree that, in its attempt to establish the rule of justice, the civilized state has essentially two options? i.e., to either persuade the citizens or to coerce them to live by that rule?
Folleticus: I understand the essence of the question but not the particular thrust you intend. Could you restate it, or perhaps provide an example?
Warnicles: Certainly. Let us say, for example that we three made a covenant to form a society based on justice. How would we enforce adherence, on the part of individual citizens, to the rule that we established? The way things currently operate, the police force fulfills the function I intend to scrutinize. In a truly just state, wouldn’t a better way be to encourage adherence through persuasion? Justice and force are not compatible when dealing with free persons are they?
Folleticus: Yes, your point is well put. A civilized society is a free society is a just society. That is self-evident. Consequently, we must find a better means of encouraging individual adherence to just standards without violating individual freedom.
Warnicles: And is it not equally true that, in the state of nature, individual self-interest usurps the grounds for persuading individuals to adhere to just standards? That is to say, self-interest left to itself is inconsonant with sacrifice, yet justice requires sacrifice, at times.
Folleticus: At times, yes.
Warnicles: So then, if our covenant (which is designed to move us from a state of nature to a civilized state) is to reconcile these opposing principles it must account for these competing interests. How can the state encourage individual freedom and individual restraint at the same time?
Folleticus: Through education, of course.
Warnicles: So you would maintain that the state has a vested interest in promoting right education to obtain social harmony?
Folleticus: That seems apparent, yes.
Warnicles: Then our challenge is more perplexing than first I suspected. Is there no escape from following Plato’s line of analysis? I would like to think that we could do better by our individuals than to create such a repulsive Republic. This is the precise point at which individual liberties begin to lose status whenever one attempts to construct the ideal society. Publius: I think I can conceive of another possibility. Warn: By all means share this other way, Publius. Otherwise we will end up creating a so-called just state comprised of citizens who must compromise their liberty in order to become good through service to the public weal.
Foll: Yes, Publius, please give us your thoughts on the matter and spare us this impiety against the human spirit.
Pub: First, I need to point out that, as I was listening a moment ago, it seemed to me that you two got slightly off track. Warn asked how the state might establish the rule of justice, not how adherence to the rule of justice could be encouraged. These are two different questions.
Foll: Mmm, right you are!
Pub: A rule of justice could certainly be established through deliberation, and with respect to the freedom of the individual citizens. Encouraging adherence to that rule, once established, is, however, another matter and at that point I think you created a false dilemma.
Warn: How so?
Pub: Even as Plato had Socrates do in the Republic, (much to our edi-fication I might add) you two assumed that individuals could only be prompted to observe the just rule by a state initiated program; a program, first of education, but eventually of servitude.
Foll: That does seem to be the lesson of the Republic. Ah, I see where you are going with this Publius! Carry on!
Pub: Warnicles, you are right to view the consequent of the previous dialectic with disdain. There is no possibility of constructing a state designed to create good citizens without violating their liberties. Harnessing the power of governmental coercion to accomplish such a task precludes the possibility of anything else. However, there is another alternative, and this move will, in fact, direct us more closely to the heart of the resolution. It is the function of core values to encourage individuals to adhere to just standards. That is why ‘core values’ have been called, in one case, ‘the tyrannizing image.’
Warn: This is so radically cryptic. Please explain.
Pub: Excuse me, someone is at the door. Go ahead Folleticus.
Foll: Publius was borrowing directly from Weaver when he used the ‘tyrannizing image’ metaphor to capture the essence of core values. Weaver (and T. S. Eliot) advances the notion that core values or commonly-held values (what I call the ‘enthymematic base’) function to nurture, sustain, and integrate a society. They both constitute the basis for culture and pro-mote cultural cohesion and, hence ‘tyrannize’ the individuals that make up that culture by impinging on their natural inclination toward self-centeredness. They constrain (or, perhaps ‘restrain’) the individual. While that type of function can be understood as coercive, because it does not involve any agency, the coercion, I believe Publius would argue, is different in kind and qualitatively better than governmental coercion.
Warn: So, let me get this straight. Publius asserts that we committed an either/or fallacy by only considering governmental means to encourage adherence, and he is advancing core values as an alternative to falling into the same ‘impiety against the human spirit’ as Plato? Okay. I understand the distinction in the quality of coercion, but, for the life of me, I can see no real difference—in practice—between just rule and core values. What is the difference?
Pol: Good evening, ladies and gentleman. I promised this kind gentleman that I would make my interruption as brief as possible and then be off into the night. Have you a minute? (Publius shrugs apologetically.)
Warn: Well, actually, we are engaged in an important discussion.
Pol: Oh splendid! What are you discussing?
Warn: We are in the midst of an examination of the role of core values in promoting social harmony.
Pol: How interesting. May I join you? It is quite cold out and, be-sides, I recently graduated with a degree in political philosophy. I promise to stay just long enough to get warm and to be warmed by this excellent discussion.
Pub: Well, I. . . .
Pol: If there is time when you’ve followed the topic to its end, I’ll give my presentation. If not, I’ll leave quietly. At any rate, I would love to stay and learn from you all about a topic that has engaged my imagination more than a little.
Pub: Pol, I told you this is a terrible time to be selling your books here. We are busy. Furthermore, your impudence is unparalleled—you walk in here, invite yourself to join in the discussion, and will no doubt force your sales pitch on us before the night is over.
Pol: Oh heavens, please forgive me. It is just that it has been such a long time since I had occasion to experience a learned discussion as this apparently is. If you let me stay I promise to be still and no sales pitch.
Pub: Well, er. . . .
Foll: Polus appears to be a true lover of wisdom, Publius. Why not invite him in. It is cold out.
Warn: Yes, and the political dimensions of our topic will most likely be enhanced by Polus’s presence. Let him stay, Publius .
Pub: Alright then, Polus. My guests have secured your place at the table. Have a seat, I’ll get you some coffee. Remember … no sales pitch.
Pol: Marvelous! Thank you all so much. Um . . . do you have any sugar? Now . . . where were we?
Foll: I was just going to respond to Warnicles´ question about the difference between core values and just rule. It seems to me that just rules are defined by or derived from core values. Core values are forms which are not consciously held, just rules are consciously instituted and observed in the state. By virtue of this relationship, it would seem that core values predetermine the very notion of justice in a given culture.
Pub: By George, this is beginning to remind me of some of our old discussions, Folleticus!
Warn: I am happy for you two, but I must admit I am getting frustrated with these rather large leaps you insist on taking, Folleticus. What in the world do you mean by subconscious forms and how can something so vague have anything to do with practical behavior?
Foll: Forgive me Warnicles. I will, from now on, try to be more methodical in my answers. If I may revert to my own favorite term, the enthymematic base is the idea of justice, good, truth (and so on) held by an individual when they are not thinking about justice, goods, or truths. The answers to questions that are not at the time being asked. I realize that this is cryptic in itself, but, alas we are probably attempting to explicate a mystery.
Warn: Perhaps. Let us press on. We really must get to the bottom of this enquiry. In what sense are core values a means to social harmony?
Foll: A couple of analogies come to mind; One is musical, the other I will draw from business. Consider the relationship between form and harmony. I assume that you agreed with my equating core values with cultural forms?
Warn: Yes. Foll: Would you also agree that we call a symphony of discordant sounds ‘cacophony’?
Foll: And what is it that sets cacophony apart from harmony?
Warn: Form, of course.
Foll: Then harmony derives its advantage through the function of form. In the same sense, a business can not rightly be called an ‘organization’ unless there is some harmonizing principle; some ‘form’ (if you will) of organizational structure. This is the same sense in which the forms of society ‘enforce’ a structure that serves to harmonize. It is negative in one sense, but ultimately productive.
Pub: And the point I was making is, compared to the unification achievable through governmental means, this type of coercion is better because it poses less of a threat to individual liberty.
Warn: But, still, someone has to pick which values will become core values, don´t they? Who will decide?
Pol: I know! I remember a discussion we had in class not long ago in which we decided that it was the people who project the images on the cave wall who get to impose their values on the other citizens of the cave! This is a good thing because it gives all the citizens a commonality and, therefore, they can be said to have true harmony. Of course it would be better to live in the light outside of the cave, but caves are safe and sacrifices always must be made to achieve the common good. If the majority of people have a need to stay in the cave then it behooves everyone to stick to-gether and live by the best system that their representatives can invent.
Pub: Polus, I don´t think Plato was to be taken literally on that point. My reading of that analogy is that, in it, Plato was demonstrating the negative impact on the life of the spirit of life as lived in that cave.
Warn: Maybe Plato was not serious about his utopia, but Aristotle was.
Pub: You know, Warnicles, I think he really was. The Politics does not demonstrate the same underlying sense of irony that Plato´s ruminations have in the Republic.
Pol: So, ultimately, my analysis holds. The people in power define the core values and that is the way it always has been.
Pub: Not really. I suppose, if politics were the only vehicle to address a need for core values it would hold. But there are other institutions, and a healthy culture is comprised of many institutions operating and interacting in their appropriate spheres to contribute to the better working of society. The symphony of society—that´s the ticket!
Warn: So you do disagree with Aristotle on something.
Pub: Right. Aristotle was on the right track, but he erred when he made his polis an amalgamation of all institutions: Political, religious, familial, judicial, educational, economic, military, and social. In Ithaka, for example, these institutions are purposefully separated in order to achieve different ends. Rather than make the goodness of citizens the end, we see it more as a by-product of our ultimate end—liberty. If the state secures liberty, the theory goes, then the individual citizens will be free to pursue their individual happiness. (This demonstrates the degree to which Aristotle was correct, because ‘happiness’ must here be understood in the Aristotelian sense: eudæmonia, ‘the happy soul.’) At any rate, liberty is the nutriment of the human spirit, so, to compromise liberty in order to achieve the goal of goodness or virtue in individual citizens is, in the final analysis, self-defeating. A greater number of people will achieve the good life in a free society than in a society which is engineered entirely on the pretext of making them good. Paradoxical as it is, I think it is true.
Warn: Ah, here is an argument I can follow! Folleticus, you could learn a thing or two from your pupil about clarity.
Foll: Heh, heh … righto. By the way, Publius, aren’t the ends that you described ultimately the same?
Pub: Oh, so they are! Well, no. Aristotle made human goodness the end of his regime and set up a complex system designed to achieve that end. Ithaka’s political system is designed to achieve the end of liberty, and, though human goodness is a by-product of that end, we have no such ideal—we take history seriously. In fairness to Aristotle, however, he made his at-tempted to establish good government in a different context than we. Ithaka is quite a bit larger and significantly less homogeneous than the polis Aristotle envisioned. Size makes a difference in terms of feasibility. But, I still assert that he attempted to achieve for his citizens (through political machinations) what the founding fathers realized could only be achieved individually.
Warn: OK, I understand that the institutions, in their private and public capacities all work together in a symphony of society to create social harmony, but, where do the core values come from?
Foll: You know, Warnicles, I think it behooves us all to consider the delicacy of this particular line of questioning. Weaver said, ‘We can infer important conclusions about a civilization when we know that its debates and controversies occur at outpost positions rather than within the citadel itself. If these occur at a very elementary level, we suspect that the culture has not defined itself, or that it is decayed and threatened with dissolution (Ethics of Rhetoric,171).’ I think we are safe at this point, but if this discussion were to become commonplace in the universities, it could be considered symptomatic of a deep-seated illness. On the other hand, the lack of such discourse in our universities could be symptomatic that dissolution has al-ready occurred and we are oblivious to it. Well, so much for signs of the times! Is it not apparent that one common thread runs through each of Publius’s institutions? As they perform the function of nurturing the individual they all perform their function through education and education—in matters of the nature under discussion—is rhetorical.
Warn: But, Folleticus, if the individual is to be educated in all these different settings, won’t that person be, by definition, rather confused?
Foll: Not necessarily. I would prefer to look upon that individual as ‘multi-dimensional’ rather than confused. The alternative is to produce the purely political ‘mass’ man. You choose, Warnicles.
Warn: Aren’t you suggesting, though, that our public system of education should abandon all attempts to make students good? It seems to me that many of our current problems (the much-publicized ‘ethics crisis’ for example) stem from just such notions. Namely, that education should be absolutely neutral. Would you not agree that the outcome of such folly has been to produce several generations running of moral idiots?
Foll: I couldn’t agree with you more, Warnicles. However—and I am sure you will agree with me on this point—many a bad result has been had by attempting to ‘Make people good’ in any sort of programmatic sense. Progressivism, which is an attempt to harness the power of government to perfect or refine human nature, tends always to usurp more authority than is proper to its correct function and tends usually to lapse into dictatorial rule based on some ideé fixe. Would you agree, that, given the course we have taken thus far, it would be wise to erect clear boundaries to channel this political power, and that it ought always to work with human nature rather than try to change it?
Warn: Yes I do. If I have learned one maxim it is that, ‘Government was made for man, not man for the government.’
Pol: Say that again, please?
Warn: ‘Government was made for man, not man for the government.’
Pol: Hmmm. Thank You. … Sorry, go on Folleticus.
Foll: The sense in which I believe it is, not only legitimate, but vitally important to provide pupils with moral education is in the spheres that public education is best suited to address: Civics and such. In this sense, the institution of education works, within its proper sphere, along with the other institutions—as Publius so aptly spoke—to pass on the heritage of the society from one generation to the next.
Warn: What is the difference between that and indoctrination?
Foll: Good question. Granting your assumption that indoctrination is bad, I think I shall answer you by way of analogy. Warnicles, do you agree that, in order for one individual to relate successfully with others the first individual must possess a healthy self-image? Warn: It would seem so, yes. Isn’t that a necessary precondition for ‘loving one’s neighbor’?
Foll: Precisely! The ‘self-actualized’ person is the one who is most able to love others. Now, is it possible (as we have at least attempted to do this evening) to apply that analogy from the individual to our culture? In other words, doesn’t a culture likewise need a strong sense of identity from which to interact successfully with other cultures?
Warn: Well, … I suppose so, yes.
Foll: I would hope, therefore, that we could so constitute our society that we could allow each institution to excel—within its proper sphere and in its proper measure—in producing good citizens.
Warn: That is an interesting approach, but you still have not adequately defined what you mean by ‘making people good.’ You told me that progressivism is dangerous, and that we must work with human nature rather than trying to redefine it, but I am not sure how that all adds up to something qualitatively different from the evil we are attempting to avoid.
Foll: It adds up to this Warnicles: We have just opened another doorway of discussion. I believe I can sum up the entire enquiry after we make one more move. It appears to me that we are now obliged to investigate one final question; ‘What is the good for man?’
Pol: Oh, come on, Folleticus! We have been at this labor until I am ready to burst. It seems we are about to arrive at a conclusion and, like clockwork, you raise another one of your trifling questions. Questions, questions, always more questions! Why can’t you allow this discussion to follow its course naturally and come to a close? For one who seems so eager for wisdom you sure don’t mind keeping her at arm’s length! I, for one, am ready to embrace her now, but you seem content to continue ….
Pub: Polus! One more outburst like that and I am afraid I’ll have to show you to the door. Do you understand?
Pol: Yes. Forgive me, it must be the hour. Publius , could I bother you for an aspirin?
Pub: No problem. More coffee, anyone?
PICTURE OF STEAMING COFFEE Webmaster's note: you may really want to go get a cup of coffee now . . .)
Foll: Friends, I really do think we are nearing the end of this dialectic. Once we discover the good for the individual in our society, I will be able to answer Warnicles´ question regarding the correct means for making people good. Everything should fall into place quite naturally from that point, and it will all add up!
Warn: Very well then, Folleticus. We had better get on with our business; it isn´t getting any earlier. What is the good for an individual?
Foll: By asking that very question, and by virtue of the context of our discussion, we have poised ourselves at precisely the same starting point as the Nicomachean Ethics. I don’t believe we could improve on the method of his enquiry into these matters, so why don’t I just summarize his steps? Afterwards, we will return to consider whether or not there is an appropriate means of ‘making people good’ and speculate a little on why Aristotle attempted the folly we discussed earlier.
Warn: That makes sense to me, and I do believe that this present search for truth will be done once we have examined these lines of enquiry.
Foll: Okay, then, as I alluded to, Aristotle begins the Ethica Nicomachea by asking the broad question that now engages us, namely, ‘What is the good for man?’ After the standard process of elimination, the Stagyrite concludes that happiness is the final good for man because it is sought for itself, not in order to gain some other good. Do we agree with Aristotle up to this point?
Warn: I have read the lines and they do make sense, yes.
Foll: Good. Then you will also recall that Aristotle´s next move is to assert that a clearer account of ‘happiness’ is necessary in order to facilitate the enquiry. After a brief assessment of possible lines of inquiry, he writes that one must, ultimately, seek a clearer account of human happiness by first ascertaining the function of man. That uniquely human function or distinguishing trait is, of course, the rational principle found in the soul of man. Therefore, Aristotle concludes Book One by asserting that ‘… human good turns out to be activity of soul in accordance with virtue.’ All of this cul-minates in the apex of the Ethics —Book Two—which is an attempt to define virtue. (Polus’ snoring interrupts the flow of discussion.)
Pub: Folleticus, could you throw that cloak over him? Thanks.
Foll: Aristotle begins Book Two of the Ethics by identifying the two types of virtue; intellectual and moral. Intellectual virtue “owes both its birth and growth to teaching,” he writes, while moral virtue grows through habit. Based on this notion, Aristotle asserts that “none of the moral virtues arises in us by nature; for nothing that exists by nature can form a habit contrary to its nature.” If the moral virtues do not exist in us by nature, how then do we acquire them?
Warn: Good choices are the beginnings of virtue.
Foll: Exactly! Aristotle explains: “Neither by nature . . . nor contrary to nature do the virtues arise in us; rather we are adapted by nature to receive them, and are made perfect by habit.” Virtues then, are learned. They do not arise in us by nature, but we are equipped by nature to learn to make correct choices, and over time, correct choices become habitual. There is a movement from intellectual to moral virtue. The Greeks knew this concept as hexis—moral habit developed through the exercise of right reason. Aristotle summarizes his discussion of virtue by saying it “is a state of character concerned with choice, lying in a mean.” The habit of choosing the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason. The truly virtuous person has developed the habit of making correct or good choices based on prior education and orientation toward the good, with no need for deliberation. The final outcome of the virtuous exercise of individual freedom is, according to Aristotle, ‘happiness.’
Warn: In light of your superlative exposition, I clearly understand how Aristotle could claim that ” We ought to have been brought up in a particular way from our very youth, as Plato says, so as both to delight in and be pained by the things that we ought; for this is the right education.” The individual pursuit of happiness is a meaningless undertaking without the grounding influence of right education. That is very close to what Plato referred to as the ‘well-ordered soul.’
Foll: Another way to express this is that virtue is something like the maintenance of symmetry in the soul. If we have learned one thing about the human being it is that we seek to order our universe by maintaining proportion and avoiding extremes. That is why, as Plato also observed, the universe is called ‘cosmos’ (i.e., ‘order’).
Pub: Just this morning I was reading a quote from the Timaeus where Plato talked about imitating the harmony of the spheres in ones´ soul as the means of ordering ones life, or something like that.
Foll: Yes I seem to recall that passage. Wasn’t that cited at the end of I. A. Richards´ Philosophy of Rhetoric?
Pub: Precisely … thanks, I had forgotten. You know what? We are now back at the point you made earlier, Folleticus, about the central function of rhetoric in this process of nurturing good individuals. The one who would possess the well-ordered soul is the one who has engaged in the contemplative life long enough to begin the process of ordering the goods in their life, and that is a peculiarly rhetorical undertaking.
Warn: Publius, don’t you start that cryptic stuff on me! What do you mean by ‘ordering the goods?’ How does one know the good in the first place?
Foll: If I may … I think you are right, Warnicles, that one must first define the good and, in the final analysis, no particular good has been fully defined until it is explicitly related to an idea of the Good.
Pub: Ah! It seems to me that herein lies the essence of what it means to “order the goods!”
Warn: But I . . .
Pol: What? (Rubbing his eyes.) Did someone say something about placing an order?
F, W, P: (in unison) Polus, would you PUUULEASE. . . . !
Pol: Oh, quite sorry. Please continue. Forgive me … Force of habit.
Warn: It seems to me that, by presupposing some sort of hierarchy of truth that leads to an absolute, you are confusing truth with opinion.
Foll: Good point. I believe that we may resolve that confusion by keeping in mind that dialectic pursues the truth (or the good) in a given situation, rhetoric then brings one´s opinion into line with that truth. That is, indeed, the essence of ordering the goods, and, indeed, peculiarly rhetorical.
Pub: Rhetoric could be defined, then, as emotive force added to dialectically secured truths aimed at improvement of persons?
Warn: I suppose that would be a decent operational definition in light of our current enquiry, but before we conclude, I do believe we hold radically different views about the nature of rhetoric. If, in the final analysis, we are going to achieve social harmony by means of education that is inherently rhetorical, shouldn’t we at least agree on the nature of rhetoric?
Foll: How could it be otherwise?
Warn: Do you view rhetoric as an amoral tool?
Foll: Yes, in part and no in part. Of course, in its technical aspect, rhetoric can be understood in a neutral sense. This conception is understandable, given the largely technical thrust of Aristotle’s Rhetoric, but is, finally, only a partial account. Rhetoric must also be understood philosophically, and, in the philosophical sense, in its essence, rhetoric is ethical. The merely instrumental view of rhetoric does not account for rhetoric in its wholeness. Taken as a whole, rhetoric is never simply a means to an end. It is at once the process whereby a culture regulates itself and the highest achievement of that culture. Thus a study of rhetoric ought to reveal not so much how to achieve goals in a particular society, as what goals that society deems worthy of seeking. A ‘rhetoric’ in this sense is identified not by the actions it urges overtly, but by the axiological assumptions it establishes covertly. For example, if I teach my students that rhetoric is a tool whereby he may manipulate others to his chosen course of action, I cannot escape also teaching that people are objects amenable to such handling, that individual ‘wants’ gain some sort of sovereignty in being held, and a host of other, equally unsavory positions. In the final analysis, it is impossible to speak of the desirability of the ends one seeks apart from the comprehensive axiology informing those ends.
Warn: So this ‘comprehensive axiology’ necessitates the existence of an absolute good?
Foll: Yes. Take rhetorical criticism for example. Inasmuch as rhetoric always gives advice and advising is necessarily reducible to the formula ‘A is better than B with respect to C’ in which ‘C’ is itself out of discourse but provides the argument with its motivational force, it follows that rhetorical analysis most properly proceeds by asking for the ‘C’ of a particular argument. This ‘C’ will, of course, take the form of a value proposition which will itself require analysis, and so forth until the analyst discovers the ‘C’ which is not amenable to further analysis, but which is asserted to be good in itself. When we have arrived at this point, we will have discovered the true rhetorical ‘substance’ we seek and which we evaluate. This is the ‘deep rhetoric’ of the discourse. We can observe this method throughout the classical enquiries and dialogues. In fact we are now practicing it ourselves. Are we not attempting to follow the goods (for the state and also for the individual) to discover an ultimate good for man that is practically attainable without violating individual freedom?
Warn: Yes, I suppose we have, but the rhetoric of which you speak is quite difficult to implement.
Foll: Admittedly, it is, nevertheless, required both practically and theoretically.
Warn: Folleticus, we really need to get together some time and hold forth on this particular subject at length. Now is not the time, however. I must grant you, for now, your ambitious conception of rhetoric. And, given that conception, the answer to the question I raised earlier is quite clear. You two are asserting that, the state has an interest in ‘making people good’ but that ‘making good’ is not to be understood as a political end and is not to be achieved via conscious political effort. Correct?
Warn: You would further argue that the right education would not be considered indoctrination because that education is designed to help the pupils develop the faculties necessary to achieve moral and intellectual virtue. This function is proper, as opposed to indoctrination which emphasizes learning core values almost, as it were, by rote. Is that your position on education in the society that aspires to maintain social harmony?
Foll: As far as that goes, yes. But I think you omitted one important aspect. While it is true that public education would not emphasize any particular dogma, it would not attempt neuter education as you so adroitly argued a while back. More importantly, however, is the recognition that public education has a proper sphere—as one of many cultural institutions—and that the right education, in fact begins, and is nurtured in another sphere; the family. Let us not forget the one real possibility for avoiding Aristotle´s ‘tragic flaw.’
Warn: Right! One might call this the difference between ‘indoctrination’ and ‘culturation’ or something of the like. Whatever we call it, it is clear that, if society is to endure, it must pass on to each successive generation those core values that the maintenance of a healthy culture necessitates. That is the sense in which, as you said earlier, good citizens are a by-product of liberal education. It is all rather indirect, isn’t it?
Foll: Yes, and of necessity I think. It behooves us to maintain clear-cut distinctions in ‘institutional jurisdiction’ and, in like manner, it also behooves us to view the entire ‘in-culturation’ process in terms other than conscious, political, programmatic efforts. Weaver says it best in the conclusion to Visions of Order. ‘There is always in cultural observance,’ he writes,
a little gesture of piety, a recognition that there are higher demands on man along with the lower. While culture is not a worship and should not be made a worship, it is a kind of orienting of the mind toward a mood, a reverence for the spirit on secular occasions. Then there is the further consideration that a culture is a protection against fanaticism both of the political and the religious kinds. If there is nothing but a vacancy between men and their political or religious ideal, the response to this may be without the rationality and grace of measure. But if these ideals are expressed in a thousand kindly and attractive forms in the creations of a culture, mere fierceness is mollified and the manner and approach are made right. Thus art and manners are seen to have a relation to politics and religion, not teaching them in any simple or direct sense, but providing a bridge by which one is helped to pass from one kind of cognition to another. This is the highest reason of all for desiring to preserve the basis of our culture ….
Warn: Well that certainly brings us full circle! That is a splendid quote Folleticus, thank you. If I may summarize, then, we have concluded that ‘our society’ does indeed need core values to accommodate ‘social harmony,’ and that social harmony is a good in the same sense that an organizing principle is vital to individual virtue—that is, maintaining symmetry in the soul. In the process we learned a little about the good for the individual and how it may be practically achieved, and we also examined the manner in which ethics and rhetoric properly function together in order to produce the good individual. It would seem, therefore, that social harmony is one key ingredient to achieving the good state, but that, by virtue of the fact that social harmony is a matter of individual restraint, (or adherence to core values) care must be taken so as not to violate the dignity and freedom of individuals. Because freedom sustains the human spirit, the state must sustain freedom. In other words, liberty is the end of politics, not human goodness.
Foll: Ah! Here it is . . . pages 134 and 5! I’ve been searching for this quote all evening. Listen to this:
We must admit that man has been living with himself for many thousands of years without discovering completely what he is. But it is impossible to think that he has discovered nothing; that would be less credible than to suppose that he has discovered everything. I should think that if there is one thing that man has learned about himself, it is that he is a creature of choice. A corollary to this discovery is that he is a creature of dignity. His dignity arises from his power of choice; it comes from the very precariousness and peril of his position, so that his dignity is something that he has perpetually to maintain by exercise. It is these qualities which make him different from the social insects and leave him capable of creating rational cultures—rational in the sense that they express a relationship of human ends and means.
Pol: Speaking of means, my means of supporting myself are being neglected; though I have truly enjoyed this discussion. Thank you so much for allowing me to sit in. As I promised, I shall not bore you with my sales pitch. (Moving toward the door and taking up his satchel.) Good night all.
Pub: Good night, Polus. By the way, what sort of books do you sell? Pol: (Smiling . . . that smile . . .) Why let me show you ….